SMS is an acronym standing for Short Message Service. It is commonly referred to as text messaging or "texting" as well. SMS is a method by which messages can be sent to a cell phone via another cell phone, a computer connected to the Internet, a regular land line, or a handheld device such as a Blackberry. The original specifications for SMS were developed in 1985, though real implementation and popularity took nearly a decade to achieve.
SMS messages may be sent either from one point to another point, or may be sent to all devices within a specific geographical region. The former, known as SMS-PP, is used primarily between individuals communicating with one another, while the latter, known as SMS-CB, may be used to broadcast public announcements such as road or weather conditions, region-specific advertising messages, or messages from a cell provider regarding the new coverage area.
SMS use for personal communication is rapidly increasing in popularity. In 2000, less than 20 billion SMS messages were sent; by 2004 that number had grown to in excess of 500 billion messages. The largest market for SMS is Southeast Asia, with Europe just behind. The United States has seemed to be a slow adopter for the early years of the 21st century, but the pace of texting appears to be increasing in the United States as service providers make its use, particularly between networks, easier.
With this surge in popularity and use, particularly among younger users, new shorthands have developed to communicate more rapidly through the medium. This shorthand mirrors in many way the writing style of online chat, dropping vowels and superfluous letters, and replacing words and entire sounds with representative numbers or single letters. An example might read something like, "how r u?" to mean, "How are you?" or, "did u c wut he askd me 2 do? 4 shme!" to mean, "Did you see what he asked me to do? For shame!" Given the limitations of a smaller keypad, with multiple clicks required for many letters, such shorthand saves large amounts of time over the course of multiple SMS messages.
In addition to person-to-person communication via SMS, a number of television shows have begun accepting text messages for various purposes. Shows which have a voting system, such as American Idol, have begun integrating SMS voting, allowing viewers to easily make their choices using only their cell phone. In Europe, the idea has been pushed even further, with shows that allow viewers to control characters on screen using their cell phone's SMS capabilities.
Some online services, most notably Google, have integrated SMS capability to allow for the easy retrieval of information through one's cell phone. By texting a special number, for example, a cell phone user may receive information ranging from local weather, to sport scores, to where the nearest bus station is in their town. In addition to such regional information, services like Google SMS can also be used to quickly find the definition of a word, to convert one unit of measure to another, or to answer trivia questions. Using SMS, one can in essence access the vast informational resources of the Internet using only a cell phone.